Chechnya buries Kremlin's choice

Khisha was sitting 10 metres away from President Akhmad Kadyrov when she thought she heard fireworks. “It was so quiet,” she said, sitting on the bed of her injured daughter, 14, in hospital number nine, Grozny. “I have heard explosions before all over the city, and this one was so quiet.
But then I saw the brick dust—a red dust and the panic. I only heard gunfire.”

Her three girls stayed calm, copying their mother. But her son, 13, was well versed enough in life in the Chechen capital to run away immediately.

Her eldest daughter shifts uncomfortably in her bed, a drip irritating her arm.

“We rarely go to public events,” Khisha said. “But she was bored and really wanted to go to the celebration. She was up until midnight doing housework to earn the chance to go.”

On Monday an uneasy calm descended on the Dynamo stadium and across Grozny as the city recovered from the shock of losing its president and with him the Kremlin’s idea of how to subdue 10 years of brutal war.

All was quiet again at the football ground where 30 hours earlier a landmine ripped through the VIP box. The Victory Day celebrations banner still hung high over the stadium gates.

Kadyrov was buried on Monday in his family’s village of Tsenteroi, about 50 kilomtres from Grozny. Thousands of mourners were reported to have attended.

Funerals were held elsewhere for the other five victims including Khusein Isayev, the head of Chechnya’s state council, and the Reuters photographer Adlan Khasanov.

Meanwhile, the acting president, Sergei Abramov, was already shuffling the republic’s government and holding meetings with an emergency council.

Kadyrov’s son, who is renowned for his heavy-handed approach to dealing with suspected rebels, was appointed first deputy prime minister, a move which human rights groups say could signal dark days of violence ahead.

Ramzan Kadyrov headed his father’s security services and militia. He has been blamed for the disappearance of countless young Chechen men in efforts to root out rebels.

In Moscow General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, the commander of Russia’s interior forces, said the military might move more troops into Chechnya.

“A reserve has been set aside so that if there are some changes, it will be possible to move in additional troops, even from outside, if some kind of unpleasant situation develops,” he told Russia’s NTV television, Interfax reported.

Further theories flourished about who was responsible for the bombing and how it was carried out. Officials said they had information that the Chechen separatist warlord Shamil Basayev was behind the attack, aimed at sending a tough message to the Kremlin.

The deputy prosecutor general, Sergei Fridinsky, said the explosive device had been laid long before the Victory Day celebrations on Sunday, and that it was simple bad luck that Kadyrov was the man to trigger the explosion. But he conceded that planting the bomb would have required collusion with security forces.

Back in hospital number nine, the elderly and wounded staggered around the wards, their eyes and faces bandaged.

Nurses have counted 44 injured, four of them in a serious condition. A nurse ran through her list—her two most infamous victims, the late president and his security council minister—were identified only by the word “corpse”. “Everybody knew who they were,” she said.

Grozny, a city that has for months been at its most relaxed since the end of the 2000 war, was at a loss for how to react.

A pan-Russian public holiday left the shops closed and streets empty. But an exaggerated, surreal calm pervaded. Chechnya, a place that Vladimir Putin has for years tried to pretend was “returning to normal” despite a continuing cycle of violence, feared the “unavoidable retribution” promised on Sunday by the Kremlin.

“People are scared and staying indoors,” one local analyst said. “It was like when Stalin died. People were afraid to say it aloud.”

Sitting out on the street in a plastic chair, Sham-Kahn, a worker at the ministry of property and transport, said: “People are in a state of constant shock. We have no idea what will come next.”

He said he would visit Tsenteroi to mourn Kadyrov. Although opinions about the late president were divided across the region, Chechens have become exhausted by 10 years of violence.

One man, sitting on a park bench with his wife, said: “A thousand people die and nobody gets upset, but when he dies we are supposed to feel different. I’m sorry but I cannot feel pity for that man.

“I feel sorrow for the dead eight-year-old girl who was just there to dance.” - Guardian Unlimited Â

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